Critics may consider them impersonal or a lazy option, but gift cards remain the most-wanted gift of the holiday season.
More than half (53.4 percent) of those recently surveyed by United Online said that they want to get gift cards for the holidays, and respondents said they preferred receiving a gift card over every category of items, including apparel, home décor, food, and books.
In general, consumers prefer physical gift cards to digital ones, but a third of millennials said they wanted digital gift cards, making them the generation most likely to prefer them.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans plan to buy gift cards this holiday season.
The cards are not without their drawbacks, however. Some cards, especially general-purpose cards such as those with a MasterCard or American Express logo, tend to carry high fees.
Plus, a large portion of gift cards never gets redeemed. Among those surveyed by United One, nearly eight in 10 consumers said they have received a couple of gift cards that they never redeemed in the past few years. A third said that they forgot to use it, and a fifth said they re-gifted it. One in three millennials said they had lost a gift card before using it.
Those who receive gift cards to stores they don’t frequent aren’t entirely without options. Several startups such as CardPool allow consumers to swap unwanted cards for a portion of its value in cash.